I'm a Grammy-winning mix engineer who will mix your tracks on a pristine SSL4000e with some of the greatest analog outboard gear in the world in one of the best sounding control rooms anywhere. I want to use my experience making analog mixes in a variety of genres to give your music the vibe, energy and depth that only analog mixing can deliver.
I've spent the last 20 years playing music and making records in Brooklyn, NY. From indie rock to jazz, hiphop to folk, pop to classical, I've played, recorded and/or mixed it all. From a DIY basement studio with my roommates to a being a founding partner in one of the best studios in NYC, I've developed a love for the gritty and homespun, with an appreciation for the high end and purpose-built. I love lo-fi indie rock, pristine acoustic recordings, aggressive electronic sounds, and everything in between. I want to find the core element of a song, it's soul... and I strive to create a deep and engaging sonic world around that, bringing the most important elements into focus and supporting the emotional intent of the music with every move. Mixing isn't just balancing elements, it's helping the energy of a song/track/performance come through the speakers and grab the listener.
In my experience, there is no substitute for mixing on a large format analog mixing console in a purpose built control room. The SSL gives me the sound and flexibility to mix quickly and efficiently, and contrary to what the plugin manufacturers would like you to believe, the sound of analog outboard gear (tube and solid-state) cannot be equalled 'In The Box'. If you think your music deserves this kind of treatment, reach out. I can't wait to help make your music sound as good as possible!
Send me a note through the contact button above.
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Interview with John Davis
Q: Tell us about a project you worked on you are especially proud of and why. What was your role?
A: I'm incredibly proud of the record that Brad Mehldau and I won the Grammy for last year. It was an honor to work with one of my heroes, and it was a very challenging record to make as we started with no clear end goal, and it continued to grow and evolve as we went along. It ended up having extensive instrumentation and arrangements from sparse piano and drum machine moments to sections with drums, synth bass, choir, 12 pc string section and distorted trumpet. I was the engineer for all the tracking and I mixed it, so my job was really making sure that all of the composition work was captured well and the sound design was handled in such a way that everything could have its space when it needed to, but also still fit into the densest sections of the record. It was incredibly challenging and rewarding.
Q: What are you working on at the moment?
A: I just wrapped up the follow-up tt Brad Mehldau's 'Finding Gabriel' which we won a Grammy for last year. That was super fun and it's another wild record. I mixed a few super interesting IDM releases for Taut and Arthur Hnaket, and I'm about to mix another organ quartet record for Adam Deitch and a funk band from NYC next week as well as wrapping up a new full length experimental folk album with Toshi Reagon. I'm super lucky to work with such a wide range of creative artists.
Q: Analog or digital and why?
A: Analog all day. It's more fun. I'm in it for fun. It's music. Make it fun. Fun.
Q: What's your 'promise' to your clients?
A: That I will make your song come out of the speakers in a way that is honest, engaging, exciting and interesting.
Q: What do you like most about your job?
A: Listening to new music all the time and helping people to bring their art and story out into the world.
Q: What questions do customers most commonly ask you? What's your answer?
A: 'What does that button do?' 'Let's find out.'
Q: What's the biggest misconception about what you do?
A: I've had my biggest successes in the jazz world, so I definitely get people thinking that I'm a 'jazz guy'... but I'd prefer people just think of me as a 'good music' guy. I don't care what genre it is.
Q: What questions do you ask prospective clients?
A: What are you looking to get out of the mixing process?
Q: What advice do you have for a customer looking to hire a provider like you?
A: Check out the work that a mix engineer has done, and especially check out a range of their work. Make sure they don't just do the same cookie cutter mix to every artist... make sure they are bringing out the artists personality and putting the focus on the music.
Q: If you were on a desert island and could take just 5 pieces of gear, what would they be?
A: Water desalination system, Tent, Wok, Knife, Surfboard....
Q: What was your career path? How long have you been doing this?
A: My path has been a bit meandering. I was always interested in recording and technology. As a teen in the 90's I made demos with my friends on cassette 4 tracks, and loved experimenting with recording, effects, etc. I went to music school to study upright bass, and dropped out after 1 year because I was too busy with gigs and touring to keep going to classes. Around this time I started doing some live sound gigs, and also recording my friends in my apartment... these living room recordings got released on some major labels, and I started doing more records there, and also picked up a position as an assistant engineer at Studio G in Brooklyn, NY. I was Joel Hamilton's assistant for a few years before I got too busy on my own and opened my own studio down the street. I opened The Bunker Studio in our living room with my partner Aaron in 2006, and we have slowly building and growing ever since. In 2011 we moved to our current location and build our Studio A and Studio B. In 2018 we took over the lease next door and added our Mix Room, Mastering Room and Edit Room.
Q: How would you describe your style?
A: I want music to be colorful, fun, immersive and thought provoking. I am not interested in micromanaging details or endless revisions of the background vocal reverb time.
Q: Which artist would you like to work with and why?
A: Radiohead. But I'd just be happy assisting Nigel and hanging out.
Q: Can you share one music production tip?
A: Your song should sound good with no plugins and all the faders at unity. Print the crucial effects as you are working and commit to what sounds cool.
Q: What type of music do you usually work on?
A: I work on a lot of intersectional music that crosses genre lines. Usually that music is related to the worlds of jazz, electronic music, rock and folk, but I also love mixing hiphop and pop.
Q: What's your strongest skill?
A: My strongest skill is probably my knowledge of different styles and my technical know-how in the studio. I am never afraid to try something crazy to create an interesting sound, and while I love to make heavily manipulated music, I also know when it is time to just present something as beautifully and simply as possible.
Q: What do you bring to a song?
A: I always want to distill and focus the music and create an interesting listening experience... I try to bring that focus and clarity to a song and make the performances feel more engaging and emotional. The mix should draw you into the world that the music is creating.
Q: What's your typical work process?
A: I like to get started somewhat early in the morning, and pull up the tracks and start fanning them out onto my console. I usually start by looking at the drums, and laying things out on the console from the rhythm section up. I have a few routing setups I like on the SSL, so once I know where my tracks are coming out, I'll setup a few parallel paths for compression/eq, subgroups, etc. Then I usually try to just get a really quick balance of the song without any EQ, compression, verb, etc., so I can hear the basic skeleton of what's been delivered. This helps me know how far I need to dig into the basic tracks sonically, or if I should start working on the big picture first. I like to check my notes from the artist and see if they have any ideas about where certain instruments should be panned, etc., but if not, I like to start experimenting with where elements can sit. I love asymmetry in a mix, so if I can find two elements that have an interesting 'conversation' in the mix, I like to see if I can get away with having them panned hard L/R. Usually after 2-3 hours I've got the basic tracks sitting in a way that I'm happy with and have started creating some characterful environments for the main elements of the song, and I invite the artist to listen in to what I'm working on... this either means just going out to the lounge (pre Covid) and inviting them in, or most often these days, starting the ListenTo stream. From this point it becomes a conversation for the next 2-3 hours as we explore and refine the details.
Q: Tell us about your studio setup.
A: I am a co-owner of The Bunker Studio in Brooklyn, NY. We are a 5 room facility with 2 Neve tracking studios, an SSL mix room, a mastering room, and an ITB mix/production room. My mixing setup is an SSL4040e with 40 channels of Radar conversion, 2 EMT plates, and a pretty awesome collection of analog outboard gear. It's a Northward Acoustics designed room, so the speakers are ATC110's mounted in the wall. We also have a Studer A810 1/4" 2 track, Ampex ATR102 1/2" 2 track, and DSD capture formats.
Q: What other musicians or music production professionals inspire you?
A: My number one influence as an engineer/mixer/producer is Nigel Godrich. I am constantly in awe of his ability to focus on what makes an artist great and present that in the most beautiful way. Be prepared for me to find some way to reference Nigel or Radiohead at least 7 times while we're working... other than that, my inspiration is pretty wide ranging... King Tubby and Prince Jammy are heroes of mine, the great engineers at Columbia in the 60's that recorded the Miles Davis Quintet records, Bob Clearmountain's 80's perfection on 'Let's Dance' and so many more.
Q: Describe the most common type of work you do for your clients.
A: When I'm mixing for my clients, I am generally working in two ways... I'm approaching the music and recording from both a technical aspect, as well as an artistic/emotional perspective. As I get the individual tracks spread out on my my console, I'm listening analytically for what can be improved, made punchier, more exciting, etc... but I'm ALSO listening for what elements are the most interesting and emotionally grab me, because I want to make sure that that is the focal point of the mix. I feel like it's my job to distill the music down to it's most important elements, and then present those in the most flattering manner that I can. If I've done my job correctly, the song is at it's most emotionally engaging AND sounds great.